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Small victories, large defeats.

Updated: 2018-03-19T07:00:01-04:00


The Battle for the 25th Man: Week 3 Report


We’re getting closer to a final roster with the moves made this week LOTS of clarification on the situation heading into the final full week of spring training games. Yes, this is the last full week of spring, which means we are that much closer to meaningful baseball. Hip, hip... Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports On to the battles! Infield/Outfield Ryan Flaherty - 11 for 33, 7 runs, 8 RBI, 3 walk, 3 strikeouts, 4 XBH (3 2B, 1 HR) Pedro Florimon - 10 for 33, 9 runs, 2 RBI, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts, 5 XBH (4 2B, 1 HR) Scott Kingery - 14 for 37, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts, 5 XBH (2 2B, 3 HR) Adam Rosales - 8 for 32, 5 runs, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts, 3 XBH (2 2B, 3B) Roman Quinn - 5 for 22, 7 runs, 4 RBI, 6 walks, 5 strikeouts, 1 XBH (HR) Jesmuel Valentin - 9 for 32, 5 runs, 11 RBI, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 5 XBH (2 2B, 3 HR) Tommy Joseph - 9 for 21, 2 run, 1 RBI, 2 walk, 4 strikeouts, 3 XBH (3 2B) Stock Up - Flaherty, Florimon, ValentinStock Down - Quinn, Rosales Well, we can pretty much write one of these guys in stone. Pedro Florimon had his contract selected this week, meaning he’s pretty much guaranteed a spot on the roster. #Phillies have selected the contract of INF/OF Pedro Florimón. Additionally, INF Eliezer Alvarez has been designated for assignment.— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) March 16, 2018 I think, at this point, it’s a matter of tolerance. How long can you tolerate Maikel Franco as he tries to figure it out? How long can you keep Kingery in Triple-A, assuming he keeps hitting there? How tolerant are you of sacrificing arm strength (and potential overall defensive value) for an offensive upgrade? I think everyone realizes Franco’s leash is short. He’ll start the season on the roster, absolutely, but he’s not promised a full season to work through it again. It seems logical to think that he may be the odd guy out, but we can’t be so sure. The more everyone moves around the diamond and plays strange secondary positions this spring, the cloudier the idea of cleanly slotting players into set spots becomes. Kingery, for his part, is having a great spring, even if the majority of pitchers he’s faced so far haven’t quite been aces in their own right. All that means is he can dominate guys at or below the level he’s at, which is what you want! Anyway. Kingery won’t supplant Crawford at shortstop, and no one wants to trade for Cesar Hernandez (as good as he is) if Neil Walker is getting precisely one Major League offer in free agency. All signs point to Franco, but Franco is only a year-and-a-half older than Kingery and has shown flashes as recently as last September. Maybe the leash is longer? Maybe anarchy reigns, an outfielder is traded, Santana moves to right field and Franco goes to first base? Who the hell knows? I’m planted firmly in wait-and-see mode with this year, both in terms of roster moves and lineup construction. It’s gonna be unlike anything we’re used to, I can promise you that. [...]

Buster Olney “bets the farm” Bryce Harper is coming to the Phillies or Nats


ESPN’s top baseball analyst says he thinks the Phillies are one of two teams who have a chance to land Harper in free agency. Normally when someone says they will “bet the farm” on something, they’re using a figure of speech. For ESPN’s Buster Olney, who grew up on a family-run farm, his usage of the expression has more weight. Towards the end of Tuesday’s “Baseball Tonight” podcast, Olney answered a Twitter question from a listener asking if this year’s free agent slowdown would affect Bryce Harper’s chances of securing a $400 million payday. Olney noted that Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, is certainly going to push for top dollar for his premier client, and that he’ll probably get the $400 million deal Boras and Harper seek. He then said he felt Philadelphia is one of two destinations with which Harper will sign that deal. “I would bet the family farm that Bryce Harper winds up with the Phillies or back with the Washington Nationals.” It’s interesting Olney has the Phillies ahead of other big-market destinations like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs. The Yankees and Dodgers have both worked hard this off-season to get under the luxury tax in order to not be hit with an especially onerous tax when they go back over the tax next off-season, presumably to sign a big-money free agent like Harper. But the Phillies have just three players currently under contract after the 2019 season, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana and Odubel Herrera. They have a $5 billion contract with NBC Sports Philadelphia. The money they have to spend, while not limitless, is far from being exceeded, or even approached. That makes them looming giants. And the giants have begun the process of ending their looming. The signing of Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million contract has signaled to the baseball world that they’re ready to spend and contend right now. Boras, who represents Arrieta as well, said as much during Tuesday’s news conference welcoming Arrieta to the Phillies. “When you have players like Jake on the team, you’ve now crossed the bridge,” Boras said. “It’s hot coffee and ready to drink.” The analogy wasn’t exactly poetry, but the point was clear. Agents throughout the game now view the Phils as a destination landing spot for their clients. David Cohen wrote about the effect Arrieta’s signing will have on the team’s relevance this off-season, and that can’t be overstated. Will the Phillies end up with Harper? Will they instead target Manny Machado? Many things need to play out in 2018 before we know the answer to those questions. But one thing is clear, the Phils will be players for all of them. You can bet the farm on it. [...]

Can Maikel Franco’s closed stance save him?


The third baseman’s stance has been noticeably different the last two games, and the results have been there. This is perhaps no more frustrating a player on the Phillies than Maikel Franco. After his outstanding 2015 season in which he hit 14 homers and tallied 50 RBIs in 80 games with a wOBA of .360, Franco has regressed each of the last two years, with wOBAs of .311 in 2016 and .292 last season. The struggles are well known. When hitting ahead in the count last year, Franco hit .200 with an OPS of .727. That’s ahead in the count. The league batting average while ahead in the count was .299, a full 99 points higher. Many of the issues can be traced to Franco’s stance, which hitting coach John Mallee has been tinkering with since spring training began. It’s been a work in progress, but perhaps we’re finally starting to see a real change. Last week, this is what we saw from Maikel Franco. In this at-bat, Franco’s stance is still very much open, with his front foot pointed towards third base. He got behind in the count 0-2 and went chasing a breaking ball that never had a chance to be in the zone. Later in that game, Franco came up with the bases loaded and nobody out, got ahead 3-0 in the count, took a strike, and then swung wildly at a 3-1 pitcher’s pitch on the outer half of the plate, rolling it over for a 5-2-3 double play. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//" style="height:315px; width:100%; max-width:560px;" webkitallowfullscreen=""> It was a microcosm of everything that has gone wrong for Franco since his rookie season in 2015. Open stance, no plate coverage, getting behind in the count and/or failing to take advantage when ahead in the count. Over the last two games, however, Franco has looked much, much different. First, notice his stance. He is now completely closed off, no longer with a foot toward third base. Against Tampa ace Chris Archer, Franco worked ahead in the count 3-0. Unlike his plate appearance last week, when he jumped ahead 3-0 and hit that weak grounder to third ahead 3-1, Franco crushed an offering from Archer over the left field wall. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//" style="height:315px; width:100%; max-width:560px;" webkitallowfullscreen=""> It was a thing of beauty, and a stark contrast to his plate appearance the week before. Then, later in the same game against Tampa, Franco came up to the plate with no one on and two out and laced a nice fastball on the outside half of the plate into right field for a single on an 0-2 count. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//" style="height:315px; width:100%; max-width:560px;" webkitallowfullscreen=""> As he rounded first base, Franco clapped his hands together, clearly showing excitement over his base knock the opposite way. If his stance had been open, he probably would have grounded that ball weakly to the left side. Or he would’ve popped it up. This is a big deal and these are the kinds of things that make you feel excited about Maikel Franco. The talent is there. The power is there. He doesn’t strike out. He makes lots of contact. The trouble is, so much of that contact is bad contact. Franco hit into 21 double plays last season, tied for 9th-most in baseball. His ground ball rate of 45.4% was 46th-highest in baseball out of 144 qualified hitters. The league average was 44.2%. Of course, the key to Franco is his ability to be consistent with these changes. It’s just a two-game sample size, which is obviously not enough to draw any conclusions about anything. Franco needs to maintain this new batting stance throughout the spring and bring it up north with him to Atlanta for Opening Day. The jury is still out, but hope remains that Maikel Franco is onto someth[...]